There's a perverse fascination with Jack the Ripper, so it's no surprise that Ubisoft has selected the infamous serial killer as the star of Assassin's Creed Syndicate's first major expansion pack. The romanticised murderer – portrayed as a kind of low-rent Scarecrow here, complete with growly lower-class accent and sack mask – features in ten or so all-new story missions, which sees Evie Frye brought back to London some 20 years after the events of the main game.
Having spent some time living in India, the hooded heroine really establishes her place in the admittedly puny pantheon of great Assassin's Creed protagonists in this add-on; she's a middle-aged woman with all of the wrinkles and imperfections to prove it, yet she struts about the blood-strewn streets of London like a total bad ass. It's really cool to see such a unique character front a major franchise – especially seeing as Ubisoft told us that it couldn't animate women 18 months ago.
Frye has learned a few new tricks during her time overseas, the most notable of which being the ability to strike fear into her foes. The French publisher typically uses these kind of expansion packs as a means of experimenting with new mechanics, and here's it's cooked up a system which enables you to frighten your targets using bombs and spikes. It's quite a neat idea, because it gives you yet another opportunity to drag guards out of position without necessarily killing them – even if it is all a bit basic.
Essentially, you'll spend most of your time simply tossing bombs into crowds in order to cause a little upset, and then spiking one of your enemies to the ground so that everyone that's watching retreats. The oafish egghead enemy archetypes – y'know the ones – are immune to your terrifying antics, and will attempt to calm down their colleagues, so there is at least a bit of strategy imbued. You may, for example, decide to pick off the big brutes first – or even hallucinate them while you scare everyone else.
The missions are really rather good, though – on par, perhaps, with the very best objectives in the main campaign. One whisks you away to a boat graveyard, while others involve doing a bit of detective work, with rudimentary puzzles incorporated to keep you on your toes. There's also a bit of a graphic novel feel to things: text appears in the environment to help you with your investigations, while subliminal messages appear on-screen while you helm the notorious whore hater.
Jack the Ripper – who, as hinted, is playable in a handful of missions – operates a lot like Jacob and Evie, but he's built to intimidate and butcher his prey. He has access to the same fear bombs as Ms. Frye, but he can also unleash a blood curdling shriek, which allows you to frighten your foes with much less hassle. Both characters also have the ability to brutalise their pray, which essentially sees you tapping the square button and performing QTEs in order to rip louts from limb to limb. This also, of course, increases the terror level of nervous on-lookers.
There's nothing here that's particularly original, but aside from some ham-fisted storytelling, it's generally well done. Most of the action takes place in a wintery Whitechapel, as you'd expect, but at least three of the missions adopt the black box format from the main game, enabling you to plan your pursuit and carry out your assassination in a manner that you deem appropriate. Side missions are mostly more of the same, though one new type has you shaming sexists who are treating prostitutes badly by dragging them through town.
After the dreadful Dead Kings, Ubisoft has proven that it can make decent DLC with Assassin's Creed Syndicate's Jack the Ripper add-on pack. The new fear system is a novel addition here, while the whole campaign has a compelling, creepy vibe. The story missions are strong, and we appreciate the developer's decision to lead with an aging Evie Frye. If the expansion's titular serial killer famously came from hell, then this content is very much heaven sent.